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HMS Terror (Hardback)

The Design, Fitting and Voyages of the Polar Discovery Ship

Colour Books Maritime > Naval Maritime > Seaforth Publishing Photographic Books

By Dr Matthew Betts
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 250 colour & b/w photos, prints and lines plans
ISBN: 9781526783134
Published: 28th July 2022


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Endorsement by Michael Palin - Author of 'Erebus'.

'Terror is a fine book. With patient and impeccable research Matthew Betts has re-created, literally at times, a ship that saw more action and adventure than almost any other vessel of its time. He lays out with great clarity and authority, everything you want to know, and everything you ought to know about one of the great unsung heroic ships of Britain’s naval history'.

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In the summer of 1845, Sir John Franklin and a crew of 128 men entered Lancaster Sound on board HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in search of a Northwest Passage. The sturdy former bomb ships were substantially strengthened and fitted with the latest technologies for polar service and, at the time, were the most advanced sailing vessels developed for Polar exploration. Both ships, but especially HMS Terror, had already proven their capabilities in the Arctic and Antarctic. With such sophisticated, rugged, and successful vessels, victory over the Northwest Passage seemed inevitable, yet the entire crew vanished, and the ships were never seen again by Europeans.

Finally, in 2014, the wreck of HMS Erebus was discovered by Parks Canada. Two years later, the wreck of HMS Terror was found, sitting upright, in near pristine condition. The extraordinarily well-preserved state and location of the ships, so far south of their last reported position, raises questions about the role they played in the tragedy. Did the extraordinary capabilities of the ships in fact contribute to the disaster? Never before has the Franklin Mystery been comprehensively examined through the lens of its sailing technology.

This book documents the history, design, modification, and fitting of HMS Terror, one of the world’s most successful polar exploration vessels. Part historical narrative and part technical design manual, this book provides, for the first time, a complete account of Terror’s unique career, as well as an assessment of her sailing abilities in polar conditions, a record of her design specifications, and a full set of accurate plans of her final 1845 configuration. Based on meticulous historical research, the book details the ship's every bolt and belaying pin, and ends with the discovery and identification of the wreck in 2016, explaining how the successes and ice-worthiness of Terror may have contributed to the Franklin disaster itself. It is an ideal reference for those interested in the Franklin Mystery, in polar exploration, the Royal Navy, and in ship design and modelling.

'Terror is a fine book. With patient and impeccable research Matthew Betts has re-created, literally at times, a ship that saw more action and adventure than almost any other vessel of its time. He lays out with great clarity and authority, everything you want to know, and everything you ought to know about one of the great unsung heroic ships of Britain’s naval history ‘Michael Palin

"Scholars of history, maritime archaeology, nautical archaeology, avid ship modelers, and enthusiasts of the subject will want to add this book to their libraries."

Nautical Research Journal Volume 68 (2023)

Betts’ offering is an excellent contribution to maritime studies. It does indeed cover the design, fitting, and voyages of the ship and moreover it does so through an historical narrative. The detailed ships drawings in the book offer modelers insight and instruction which cannot otherwise be found so readily.

During review, it was shared with children, teenagers, and retirees alike, all of whom remarked on how fascinating it was. Such a book has a place in the reference library and on the coffee table of a modeling enthusiast as well as in the reference section of a library or museum. It offers a fascinating insight to marine engineering and wooden shipbuilding of the 1800s, from increase in size of the moulded orlop and lower deck beams, as well as strengthening of the transoms and deadwood to perform Arctic service. This book also offers insight into social and political history topics, such as why Sir John Franklin was chosen as expedition commander, why finding a navigable Northwest Passage was so important to Great Britain, and why the crew ultimately abandoned their ships.

The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord

As featured in

Ships Monthly - July 2023

"...sumptuously produced and surely definitive account."

Times Literary Supplement - 23/06/23

As featured on Naval Review

Naval Review

This is a fascinating book that would appeal to a broad readership, not just those with an interest in the Franklin Expedition.

In summary, this is a very well-researched, beautifully-illustrated book that draws the reader into the ship and helps us understand how people lived in it and operated its systems. It will continue be a valuable reference work that puts new discoveries by the archaeologists into context when they are found; it is written in a very readable style and, as you may have gathered, I found it to be fascinating. I highly recommend it.

Read the review here

David Hobbs - Australian Naval Institute

The full story of HMS Terror is not yet over; years of careful underwater archaeology and analysis of the wreck and its contents lie ahead. But Matthew Betts’ book is a magnificent, detailed and timely tribute to the ship that is so central to the ‘North West Passage’ story and polar discovery more widely. It is an impressive, informative and enjoyable book - and highly recommended.

South West Maritime History Society. 'Soundings 122'

The authors interest and fascination about HMS Terror is unbounded by his dedication and enthusiasm for historical accuracy of the humble bomb ship. His time, devotion and research of archaeological evidence including ships logs of the polar voyages is presented to the reader in a logical progression from Terrors construction plans, through to her eventual fate. Interspersed within the narrative are the techniques required to build an accurate scale model of Terror. He provides his evaluated hypothesis of why the crew deserted their ship, met their deaths and how Terror was drawn down to her watery grave. HMS Terror’s story is a page turning historical journey and visually illuminated. The drawings, elevations, plans within the book are first class, accompanied by colour, black and white photographs, drawings, maps, an appendix, notes, bibliography, and index.

Roger Coleman, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

"Dr. Betts has honed his analytic deftness and eye for detail acquired as a professional archaeologist, and enhanced them with the precision required by his hobby as a modelmaker. To these skills, he now adds storyteller and writer to produce this passionate biography of an interesting and significant ship."

David Woodman, explorer, sailor, and author of,

About Dr Matthew Betts

DR MATTHEW BETTS is an internationally recognised expert on Sir John Franklin’s ships, and is an active consultant with Parks Canada, which discovered the wrecks. He has contributed to major documentaries on the expedition and recently acted as an historical advisor for the first season of AMC’s major historical drama, The Terror. His model and plans of HMS Terror have been showcased in exhibitions at the National Maritime Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, and Mystic Seaport Museum. Dr Betts is currently a curator of archaeology at the Canadian Museum of History.

HMS Terror was launched

29th June 1813

HMS Terror was launched on 29th June 1813

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